A WAVE OF HOUSTON HEAD TRIPS

Two things I should clear up fast. Things suck in Houston right now. Dallas is nowhere near Houston. Ohio is closer to Washington DC then I am to the catastrophic floods. So I appreciate the concern from far away friends but thanks to geography, all is well where I am. In Houston, not so much.

The first time I went to Houston was for a consulting job back when I was in my 20s. After crashing at a friend’s place in Tallahassee for the night, I drove the last 10 hours for my first visit to the State of Texas. It was exciting uncharted territory for me officially being the farthest west I had ever been.

After a three month stay, I made the mind-numbing drive west across the rest of the state and onward to the coast.  But I will save for another day that trip’s tales of a 3:00am New Mexico truck-stop inhabited by pig faced mutants from the Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder Twilight Zone episode, questionable mushrooms in the mountains south of Tucson and spending three days in the L.A. valley with my oldest friend, newest friend and Elvis Presley’s supposed illegitimate daughter before the thick grey smog cleared enough for me to realize that there were actually visible mountains nearby. Today though, with everything going on, my head is still in Houston.

I was a bit lonely and overwhelmed when I arrived but sometimes the best adventures start out that way.  I was not really sure of the details and distances of where I needed to be so I arbitrarily checked into a safe looking well-let hotel near Hobby airport. My logic being that every neighborhood would have somewhat direct access to the airport. In the decades since many roads have been built but at the time, my theory proved to be wrong.

My memories are muddled at this point and I was hoping that multiple meanders down roads on Google Maps would help me recall the exact street or hotel I stayed at those first three days but I have had no luck. What I do recall with crystal clarity is that when the sun went down that first night, the bugs came out. Millions of them. Biblical plague levels of them. They covered the parking lot like a moving carpet of chirping buzzing pests that also bounced off my room’s glass window creating an all-night tap tata tap tap.

I am not a fan of bugs. I have a lot of unpleasant allergies to insect bites and a few nibbles from the wrong ones can make me pretty miserable for weeks.  So, no matter what the variety, species or type, I am always on edge when I sense a near-by buzzing. For self-preservation purposes if bugs are out, I am in. I am sure I looked like a brain-damaged spastic Olympic sprinter flailing my arms as I ran from the car to the hotel each night in my moist from the intense heat and humidity half-disrobed business suit.

Texas and its nightly bug invasion were a bit of a culture shock for me. It mentally transported back to Phis Ed class after I first moved to Florida in 9th grade. Where I grew up in Queens New York, gym class was mostly inside where the weather was more consistent, fights were easier to break up, it was harder to slip out to skip the rest of day and there was less taunting from the kids across the street that had already skipped out of classes. Although City insects are tough (picture a muscle-bound mosquito with bad prison tattoos of Dracula yelling in a Brooklynese accent “I’m bitin’ ya here”), they were few and far between.

In Miami, gym class usually was outside. I recall my shock and disgust standing there in the miserable tropical heat my first few days, while thousands of slow floating love bugs and biting mosquitoes swarming around the marshy moist grassy schoolyard making me jump swat and scratch like a twitchy palsied monkey doing a 1960’s teen-craze dance.

Back in Houston, I quickly learned it was the bright lights and large cement parking lot that attracted the seasonal swampy insect swarms. When I relocated a few days later to a more permanent place on the south-side of town near work, I picked an apartment on the second floor with a dark small tree lined parking lot.

My head was not in a good place my first few weeks there. I worked during the day but stayed home most nights parked in front of the TV assembling a zillion piece jigsaw puzzle on my cheesy rented furniture coffee table. Then one night I ventured out to a recommended hole in the wall Tex-Mex place in a little double wide mobile home off the side of the two-lane highway between Pearland and Friendswood. Next a wacky trip to see Howard The Duck in what was obviously an old grocery store poorly converted into a multi-plex movie theater with unpainted, uneven drywall room dividers and folding chairs.

Soon after I started having many adventures in Houston and the people I met were very down to Earth, straight shooters that, even though I obviously was not from the area, treated me well. I eventually started dating an ex-cop that never seemed to run out of shocking neighborhood stories.  One night I spent a couple of hours hanging out drinking on the front steps of a small club with the band the Butthole Surfers waiting for a Sandra Bernhard show to begin. Another time I befriended a couple of women that offered me shots from their thermos of tequila at an outdoor Jimmy Buffet concert at Astroland. Then after the show they invited me to join them for a late-night recovery meal but first I helped them with their obviously well practiced routine of picking up blankets people left behind, on the sprawling field then depositing the huge pile at a nearby Salvation Army drop box.

I’ve been to Houston many times since and I feel bad for what the folks down there are going through. Having dealt with Hurricane Andrew in Miami, I know once the torrential downpour ends and dramatic rescues cease, the mess will soon pass quickly out of the fickle media’s eye but that is only the tiny beginning of the arduous years of rebuilding to come.  Like my early days in Houston sitting overwhelmed and lost at that coffee table, the kind folks down there will now have to sort out the jumbled jigsaw pieces of their lives.

I don’t have any great solution or words of solace that would offer any real comfort but might I point out lately there has been a lot of division between people. Lets use this as a reminder that we are all in this together. Please help the folks there any way you can.

 

CLICK THIS LINK TO HEAR BOOTLEG OF SANDRA BERNHARD AND BUTTHOLE SURFERS PERFORMING BARRACUDA IN SPANISH

 

 

 

 

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ECLIPSING THE PAST

The best thing I read about the eclipse this past week (yes that was this week, although it seems like ancient history already) was someone complaining that ‘they should have scheduled it for the weekend instead of on a Monday.’  I guess second to that would be when I overheard someone who just put on borrowed eclipse glasses asking “OK, so where do I look?”

Sure, the whole eclipse thing is interesting but I definitely was not all caught up in the frenzy like those folks skipping work to drive across country for maximum totality or spending buku, beucoup, bookoo bucks for sold-out black market last minute viewing specs. I assume people will not recall this week’s hype for the ‘celestial event of the century’ in seven years when the next one in 2024 occurs.

Yes, it’s cool and neat and groovy but it’s just not something I get worked up over. Maybe I’d be more wound up if I were a cave dwelling shlub in a primitive culture that assumed the unexpected shocking brief blotting of the Sun was a sign that the Gods were punishing me for carving graffiti figures on the walls, building idols or touching any personal bits for non-procreative purposes. In that case an eclipse might have gotten me off my ass to do something but instead I’m sitting around all blasé wondering what this will cost me in lost power production on my, not yet paid for, roof-top solar panels.

Maybe I should have been more rah-rah ooo-aaaa but I felt more like that curmudgeon old man usually found on the corner back bar-stool all afternoon at the local pub interjecting unwanted grousing comments into other people’s conversations like “eclipse of the century, my ass… you call that two second dot in the sky an eclipse!?!  Back in the June of nineteen fifty and six we had an eclipse that kicked this eclipse’s ass…  A real eclipse… It lasted for hours plunging Ceylon into a full seven whole minutes of dark chaos blinding every Tom, Dick and Wally from the Five and Dime… I told him he shouldn’t but he watched that whole thing with the red cardboard glasses he got at the Drake The-aaa-ter for the three and D moving pictures of the Creature From The Black Lagoon… Now that webbed handed monster reaching right out of the damn screen making you spill yer popcorn… that was something to get excited about! Not a dag gum lil’ ole Mitsubishi Eclipse!”

Way, way back during some partial eclipse in the past, I recall learning how to protectively watch through a little hole in a cereal box projected onto a white piece of paper taped inside. I recall thinking if you are going to stand out there facing the wrong direction watching a projection in the bottom of a Fruity Pebbles container, why not just sit inside comfortably watching it on TV.  But truthfully, I’d feel dopey doing that too, like when you constantly catch yourself watching the big screen shot of an artist performing at a live show instead of looking two inches over and watching them directly on the stage.  I will admit that Monday afternoon I did briefly glance at the NASA tracking website but it just felt wrong; like viewing 4th of July fireworks on your cell phone screen.

If I really want to throw myself onto the 2-bit self-analysis psychologist’s sofa, I guess part of the reason I didn’t get excited about an eclipse was that I’m intimidated by the vastness of the universe. Pondering it too hard makes me realize the true and total insignificance of my existence in the grand scheme of things and I don’t like that; you mean the galaxy does not revolve around moi?

I recall one night as a young boy standing a few steps outside our front door with my older brother Arthur as he used a series of balls to explain our solar system to me. Then he pushed it even further pointing up to the sky explaining our galaxy was just one of an infinite number of galaxies reaching out farther and farther and deeper and deeper into the darkness of space. It was a vastness my little head could not then or now, really conceive. My whole universe previously had been tied up inside that house behind us. Suddenly then, and forever after, my world was as small and insignificant as that of an ant trudging away in the dirt beneath my feet.

That knowledge was a bit of a head trip for a bratty obnoxious little kid. With that perspective lodged into my skull, I understood we are all unique individuals yet the subtle human differences that cause Earth’s constant social unrest seemed mighty unimportant. I still have that Horton Hears A Who head trip. It also sometimes makes a lot of my goals and dreams beyond just enjoying my limited days, seem a bit futile and wasted.

Decades ago while my amazing friend Allyson and I were driving home from an Indiana Jones movie, we remembered that there was supposed to be a partial lunar eclipse that night nick-named The Dragon. Apparently, the ancients described it as looking like the shadow of a dragon passing in front of the bottom fourth of the moon.  I had read about it in the paper but really the only reason I knew so many Dragon Eclipse details that I could spout on about to Ally was because in those days I went to a lot of late night rock and roll laser shows at the Miami Planetarium where over the previous few weeks the geeky curator Jack Horkheimer had been getting more and more manically excited about this particular phenomena.

We got out of the car at my folk’s condo, watched the sky for a few seconds and very quickly decided ‘we came, we saw, we eclipsed’ and very quickly went our separate ways home. Frankly, I was more exciting about the Don McLean album that my buddy Mike left for me to borrow leaning up against my front door then I was about the eclipse. At least I’m consistent.

But in thinking about the eclipse this week, I did appreciate that for a few measly hours people stood together to share the event. The eclipse cared not if you were alt-Left or alt-Right, pro or anti Donald, what bathroom you used, or if you categorize yourself white, black, Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Catholic or anything else. An alien from one of those far, far away worlds out there in the cosmos would likely see us as all the same. The divides man creates are meaningless when the planet’s sky goes dark. Maybe my real problem with eclipses is they don’t last longer.

 

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RACISTS & RECORDS, TOASTERS & TRAVELING ALONE WITH GLEN C.

Back in the 1990s while doing a consulting job in Albuquerque I was invited to dinner at the house of a friendly co-worker. I had turned him down several times prior but eventually ran out of feeble polite excuses. Although appreciated, I usually said no to dinner offers after an ugly experience years earlier where ‘just a simple nice home cooked meal’ invitation in Oklahoma City turned out to be a thinly veiled cover for a painfully long evening’s heavy-handed attempt to save the filthy Jew’s perverted soul by non-stop pressuring him into converting. Oh, that made work the next day fun.

Prior to dinner in New Mexico I asked enough leading questions that I figured the night would not end like that other one, with being presented a customized leather bound New Testament embossed with my name on the cover in shiny gold letters. What did surprise me was walking into a house with wall after wall after wall filled with mounted shelves containing hundreds of what my co-worker’s wife called her “Little N(word) Dolls”. With as much ease and frequency she also used the term “Jemima Dolls”.

Now to be fair, they did not try to get me to join the Klan or carry a cheesy Luau style Tiki torch to an alt-right rally. As a matter of fact, after the initial tour of the house, the massive quantities of black apron-wearing dolls were barely mentioned. None the less, I still found it hard to eat dinner and chat calmly in the living room afterwards with this all-encompassing collection staring at me. Not to mention my forever changed opinion of my coworker for so nonchalantly having such a collection and being so comfortable with the rather abhorrent name.

Yes, what goes on under your own roof is your own business but if you invite me into your den of extremism, I have a right to my opinion. This all makes me wonder though, what conclusions people have made about me after walking into my home.  Although definitely not overly religious or overtly racist, my wife and I do certainly have a non-traditional decorating style. With my wife’s feeling that no wall space should remain open and my leaning towards the wacky, our place has often been compared to Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse.

One of our rooms is dominated by my record collection. Yes records. Mind you, I can bark a command across the room and our Googly Alexia will play most any song I want to hear. With a couple of quick clicks my computer, tablet or smart-ass phone can each can play tunes from my Spotify and iTunes library. Not to mention my Sirius account is linked to just about everything but my toaster, although I’m working on that because I think the wait for toast could be vastly improved if accompanied by a rousing rendition of the Star Wars Theme or possibly the Ride Of The Valkyries.

So why do I keep all those records?  Every one of my friends, who over the years has helped me carry sections of my hulking heavy collection during my many moves, must certainly wonder that.  When people walk into my house do they look at all those records and draw conclusions about me, like I did with the creepy racist doll couple?

Collections do say something about the collector. Stamps, coins, cars, clocks… my Dad used to restore antique toasters to mint working condition and had dozens of them in his office. He not only could tell the story of where he personally found each one but also knew the history of the model and manufacturer. His toasters said something about him.  I assume the creepy doll lady’s collection started innocently enough and to her was much more than just an overwhelming tribute to negative stereotyping.

So yes, I can enjoy listening to the music on my records but so many of them also have a history and story to me. I can hold a record in my hand and not only recall the backstory of the band and song but also be transported back to the first time I held that particular copy of it. What store I was in, who was with me, what stage of my life I was dealing with, what was my world like other times that I had taken it out and played it? Is it connected to a relationship, was it a hand me down from a family member or a gift from a now lost friend. The music itself is important but that is only one aspect of why I hold onto them.

My record collection really started as a series of inherited 45s from my siblings I received as they grew up and moved out. My oldest brother tastes leaned heavily on the Beatles, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and I assume since he played the trumpet, Herb Alpert.  My other two brother’s mostly had instrumentals and goofy novelty songs like Pepino The Italian Mouse.

My sister’s 45’s fell into two categories: pop hits she liked as a young teen and slower songs she was trying to master on the guitar. I’m not sure why the hell she had McArthur’s Park; I still tease her about leaving the cake out in the rain.  As a little kid I gravitated towards her peppy popular stuff but as I grew older I revisited the complex intricacies of the ones she bought to learn how to play. It was not till decades later that I grew to appreciate the detailed beauty of gorgeously crafted records she had like Wichita Lineman.

A few years ago, when I heard Glen Campbell had Alzheimers I got very hooked on that song again. And now too, after his recent passing, I again find myself drawn to that record.  Even though more often than not, I listen to it on a digital platform through my computer, I’m glad that old 45 rpm is still sitting alphabetized with the others on my shelf.

Even now I can close my eyes and imagine what that record label and sleeve look like. I can imagine the opening strains of the song and the beautifully layered instruments under the sad lyrics about the hard-working lonely mid-westerner. And if I keep my eyes tightly closed my head can transport me to one of those small towns that, just like the Wichita Lineman, I also passed through alone when I was traveling for work. I see a single hanging traffic light swaying in the breeze over the dusty sidewalk in front of the local Salvation Army. Inside that old re-sale shop I see a rickety bookcase against the back wall holding a stack of scratched up old 45 records that look like an unloved neglected version of my collection and next them sits a pile of musty books containing a long ago donated leather-bound bible with my name embossed in gold letters on the cover.

dan W RECORDS

DAN WITH THE START OF THE RECORD COLLECTION

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LETS NOT DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN

I flew down to Florida to visit my folks this past weekend.  I feel very lucky that I can still do that. No, not my ability to fly; although not long after 9-11 there was a little incident that almost got me on a no fly list.  Luckily my wife physically put her hand over my mouth before I could get into too much trouble. Things were tense at the airport with new security measures being rushed in place at the same time American Airlines filed bankruptcy laying off 13,000 union workers.

Despite leaving our house two hours before take-off, we had just missed a 7:00am flight due to an airport parking lot closure, wrong directions from the ticketing desk agent and a last minute terminal change. Instead of helping us get on another flight the gate attendant blankly looked at me when I explained what happened and asked me if I “was going to take responsibility for anything in my life?” Now it did not help that I sorta looked like a confused terrorist on my rather near expired old Florida driver’s license photo from a decade before. We learned later the whole time the woman was lecturing me she was also typing some not flattering things about me into the system. But we did eventually get where we were going and the long version is a tale for another day.

I feel lucky about flying to see my folks because a lot of my peers have already lost their parents. And I don’t mean the kind of ‘lost’ where they’re traveling somewhere in Europe and we have no clue exactly where they are or when in fear of damaging your own sanity you speed away from the slack-jawed freaks at the Wal-Mart forgetting your wandering parent killing time torturing the clerk in the Garden Department ‘lost’ or even the we have been bickering over something stupid and are not talking this month ‘lost’. No, I’m referring to the BIG ugly forever ‘lost’. The one typically preceded by a mortifying soul-crushing health decline before the inevitable horrid traumatic opposite of birth, extremely final ‘lost’.

Time is a funny thing and no matter how much of it you have, it’s never enough. My parent’s are both inching very close to 90. They are still full of vigor, stories and opinions that I seem to never grow tired of… but that might be because I live on the other side of the country. It’s tough being so far away, only able to visit for a day here and there, but maybe that is why I love being around them so much when I am in town. That also might be why they appreciate me so much when I visit. Taken in small doses I do tend to be better liked and far less annoying. I have always used the ‘fish’ rule when visiting people. It’s always pleasant to have fresh fish for dinner but you don’t want it sitting around for days and days. The longer its there, the worse it stinks.

It’s always a little bit of an emotional head trip to visit them. In my brain they still look the way they did when I was growing up. Dad might look great for someone 89 but someone 89 does not look like a 50 year old. That said, it must be equally hard for them to see their youngest son bald, gray and in his fifties. I assume I am a bratty little boy in their mental image of me.

As a little kid, time moved so slow I’d complain to my Mom I was bored and had nothing to do. Back then, 20 years old seemed very adult and mature. When I finally actually hit 20, my thirties seemed as way, way distant and unfathomable as walking on Mars. At 30 I had the perspective to realize how much I did not know at 20 but still felt very much like I was in the midst of the first half of this thing called a lifetime. Now in my fifties I often feel like I’ve passed the slow and steady first-half hike up the hill. Like I’m over the hump of the mountain peak where time suddenly speeds up. Life now feels like a rolling boulder gaining speed as it careens faster and faster almost uncontrollably down the far side of the Mountain of Life. The path is fairly set and hard to change and the unpleasant final crash at the bottom appears to be getting closer and closer.

When you hear about people you knew in school dying of natural causes it tweeks that mortality trigger in your brain. I realize I now have thoughts about travels and adventures I want to share with my wife before it’s too late. Before ‘lost’ comes into the equation.  Marketers might try to convince us that 50 is the new 40, but I think any Actuary would confirm that 50 is, well… 50.  So unless modern science can figure out how to modify Professor Peabody’s Way Back Machine to reverse someone’s age, on average I have about 25 years left to pack an awful lot of living into. I mean, if that life expediency average holds true, at that rate if I only go to Vegas twice a year till I die, that is only 50 more trips. That’s not enough?!?!

It feels like lately almost every long conversation with friends or family eventually turns to illnesses and executors or diseases and plots. It was not always that way although I do recall one particular conversation with my Mom when I was in High School and she was close to my current age. Her Mother had recently passed away and she was obviously feeling the pains of loss and mortality. She said, the oddest thing about growing older is that your head does not change. Your body ages and grows weaker but forgets to tell your brain. Your mind still acts the same way. I have since learned first hand that she was right. But unfortunately even worse, the mind does sometimes fail, but it does not see that either.

One of my brothers passed away a year or so ago. I find time has not really lessened the pain of that. The odd thing is, if I see a photo of him from awhile ago it makes me smile but when I see any from his last year I tear up. It’s like my brain is comfortable seeing him before he got so ill but just wants to avoid that whole nasty patch at the end.  While seeing my folks this past weekend, I also spent time with my sister too. At one point she whispered a pretty dark gallows humor joke to me about my brother. It was VERY funny and in VERY bad taste. Sometimes it’s a good thing that my Mother’s hearing is going; none of us is too old for the swat in the head she would have given us had she heard.

My Sister and I reminded each other that just minutes after my brother’s interment, I asked my other siblings if it was still OK to still playfully tease him like we always had. We all very quickly answered yes as we would definitely want that to continue if any of us had passed.

I do not think there is enough time for me to ever really get over my brother. I don’t think there will ever be enough time that I get with my parents. I know a 40 hour visit feels like it is not enough time. But I do know when it comes to time, no matter how much it seems to warp and bend, I have no control over it.

Dl PIC

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IT’S LIKE SNOOKER

I am not sure at what age ‘quirky’ turns into ‘eccentric’ but I have a hunch I am getting pretty close to that exit on the lifetime expressway. Something similar has happened to me before. The comment pages of my 9th grade junior high school yearbook is littered with notes starting with ‘you’re so crazy but…’ Sometime during my settled-down visibly responsible vaguely respectable adulthood that ‘crazy’ magically shifted to the more societal acceptable ‘quirky’. Mind you, the only thing that has really changed is my age and other people’s perceptions of me; I believe my squishy brain is pretty much the same.

My family still perceives me as nuttier than a jar of JIF, but that’s one of those ‘kettle calling’ things like a swimming fish calling an ocean bottom mollusk all wet or Donald Trump calling an opposing politician egotistical.   But with my family it’s more than a ‘takes one to know one’ deal-e-o. I’m the youngest of five siblings and I fully blame all of them along with my parents as the cause of my well documented crazy-quirky eccentricities.

As proof of the wackiness I was born into I offer for example that out of the blue, anywhere, anytime, anyplace I mention the George Washington Bridge near one of my family members, I can pretty much guarantee one of them will interrupt whatever I was saying and suddenly start singing the following song to the tune of a famous waltz:

George Washington Bridge,

Georgie Washington Washington Bridge,

George Washington Bridge,

Georgie Washington Washington Bridge,

George Washington Bridge,

Georgie Washington Washington Bridge…

Don’t ask why. At this point I am not sure anyone could explain its origins. It just always happens.

Throughout my childhood, my siblings complained Sunday mornings when Dad cranked Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory on his stereo so loud that the house windows rattled or when my Mom flipped her little fridge-top transistor radio from the news station to her favorite elevator style easy listening tunes to which she would somewhat creatively sing along to ( I tried to be gentle there). In suit, Mom called anything recorded after 1955 that we listened to, ‘yeah, yeah’ music and Dad ignored the bunch of us. The only thing everyone could agree on was Allen Sherman, who was a sort of 1960s kitschy Jewish version of Weird Al Yankovic.  So my odd musical tastes were started very young, growing up with a steady diet of very goofy dated song parodies.

Another similar wacky family thing like that has to do with the late recording artist / comedian / raconteur / advertising creative director Stan Freberg who put out a comedy album a couple of years before I was born parodying the History of The United States Of America.  This album was played a lot in my house. A whole lot. I basically grew up hearing repeated quotes from it.

During the segment about Dutchman Peter Minuit’s (sic. Tishman) 1626 purchase of Manhattan from the local native American Indians for $ 24.00 (“of junk jewelry”), there is a quick one liner exchange where Peter is reading the real estate listing details of the island and asks his slick New Yawky real estate agent about the line “room for pool… what’s pool?” The agent snappily replies “it’s like snooker”, referring to the centuries old English billiards game.

Yeah, not really a hilarious gut buster. Believe me, I know. My wife does not get any of that album and just gives me a look when I go off on tangents from it. Maybe it’s just too dated, too dry or you just have to hear it eight zillion times before it becomes funny.  But like so many other odd things with my family if I say “what’s pool”, I am assured somebody will respond, “it’s like snooker”.

This has come up a lot lately in my currently ‘quirky’ (soon to be eccentric) head because this past year both my sister and I have purchased houses with pools. When you have a pool the word ‘pool’ comes up a lot. A whole lot. And when you are raised in the house I was, every time you hear the word ‘pool’ your brain automatically pushes a little Pavlovian like button that causes a little voice in my skull to say “it’s like snooker”.

This is our first full summer in the house and I am out in the pool (“it’s like snooker”) almost every day trying to get my money’s worth, especially since half the year it’s a useless expensive labor-intensive deep puddle. My wife really did not want the pool (“it’s like snooker”). When we first decided we would place an offer on this house, she actually went as far as researching how much it would cost to get the pool (“it’s like snooker”) removed and the remaining hole filled in.

Having a pool (“it’s like snooker”) also causes other issues that I had not previously thought of. Do I ask friends over for a swim on hot weekends? At our last house, a neighbor kept inviting us over to use their hot tub and it almost sounded like a creepy offer to swing or wife swap.  We found out it definitely was not when another neighbor got the same impression but was bolder than us about clearing up the confusion.

I hate adding pompous or creep to my crazy, quirky, eccentric adjective list, so what is the proper etiquette for saying come on over for a refreshing dip in the pool (“it’s like snooker”)? And more importantly, who am I okay seeing my big giant flabby gut blobbing over the top of my bathing suit? I don’t think I can pull off a belly hiding male unitard and my scuba wet suit might be overkill. If I wait till I have a bathing suit friendly body before I invite anyone to swim, it might be decades from now and my bigger issue will be is it ok to swim in my Depends.

This is one of those things that’s easier if you have kids. You can use them as the excuse for everything. Bring the kids for a pool (“it’s like snooker”) play-date. Adult lumpiness is forgiven when it’s for the kids. Of course, than you have the whole peeing in the pool (it’s like snooker) thing to deal with. Hmmm, I had not really thought about the whole comingling with other people’s bodily fluids thing.

Maybe I’ll ask my sister, she seems to have successfully pulled off the adult pool (“it’s like snooker”) party. She is older than me though, so I can ask her about that Depends in the pool thing too. To which she will probably tell me to go jump off the George Washington Bridge (“Georgie Washington, Washington Bridge. George Washington Bridge. Georgie Washington, Washington Bridge…,”)

Duckie(1)

 

 

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ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

I wonder if attendance at High School reunions has dramatically dropped in the past 15 years since FACEBOOK got popular. Maybe I am wrong but I have always assumed that most people attend those simply to see how their classmates have aged. Did the football star become a divorced fat bald sewer worker? Did the geeky nerd pull a ‘kissed toad’ move transforming into a handsome prince? Which snooty cheerleader became wider than a wildebeest and which winsome wallflower blossomed into a vivacious vixen?

Back in the stone age before the internet, finding out ‘what ever happened to’ was a lot harder than a Google search or simple social media fishing expedition.  Even in small towns most folks just keep up with a handful of old friends, so back in the proverbial day, you had to wait a decade or so for a big bruhaha reunion to finally find out whose body got lumpy, whose life got bumpy and whose world turned schlumpy.

I guess some folks never look back but I think far more of us at some point have dug around a little to see if you could finally stop regretting losing the ‘one that got away’.  We want to think of ourselves as more evolved but tell me you would not smile if you learned that High School classmate that viciously stomped on your heart ended up miserable from making a continuous series of bad choices.

Many years ago, I went to my 10-year class reunion primarily as a bit of joke with my buddy Mike. We spent most of the time making fun of the folks taking it so seriously and laughing at the same nimrods that had grown from unpleasant kids to unpleasant adults but at that point people had not really changed that much yet.  Mike told folks he had become a Metaphysical Psychologist and I claimed to have become an Amish Priest. We laughed our way through it and then left early.

I certainly can’t say anything bad about the experience except that it was a bit unrewarding and kinda anti-climactic. It was an experience. I even hooked-up and started dating someone I had not seen in that decade away who likely never would have gone out with me back when we were in school.  So believe me, I understand the benefits of going to these things and how keeping up with people can lead to fruitful reconnections and help keep you connected to the past. But what about all those periphery folks I mentioned.  Those faces in the yearbook of people you kinda knew way back when but then and now really have no deep friendship with.

That leads me to the whole reason all this popped in my head. Birthdays. I seem to constantly get those little pop up reminders that its someone’s birthday. And like a blindly led sheep, that I obviously can sometimes be, I always type a little ‘happy happy’ greeting and post it there on the old unforgiving internet for all to see illustrating I am a caring loving friend willing to spend the barest minimum effort to spread a drop a modicum of cheer.

Then the other morning I got seven birthday notices.  I don’t know what made folks so frisky in those Octobers prior but I seem to know a lot of July babies. There were more proddings for Birthday greetings the next day too. Then more the next. Who are all these people?

Happy Happy’ I typed over and over and over again. Like eating addictive potato chips I could not stop at only one, even though there really was only one single person that I truly am particularly close to. I thought about just posting my well wishes to just the one dear old friend but what if some lesser acquaintance saw I bothered to type a greeting to someone else that day but ignored them? That is worse than the complete omission. If I just say nothing to anybody at least than it could be assumed I just never logged onto any social media that day. Of course, if they are they are that personality type that is constantly checking social media, that would be an inconceivable notion. They will assume I am purposefully snubbing them because how damn hard is it to write two friggin jolly words in a Birthday pop-up box.? They will surely assume I must really dislike them. Oh what a self-centered bastard they must take me for that I cannot type two little greeting-ish words in a ready to post handy dandy notification box. Like my time is sooooo important I can’t spare a few seconds to poke a few tiny keystrokes of well-wishing cheer for them once a year. They would most certainly think of me a thoughtless horrible egotistical self-absorbed cad.

On the other side, who are all these people that have accumulated in my Friends List? Are they part of the left over residue of my first MYSPACE page when I tried to collect people so it did not look so embarrassing that I only had six friends? Are they periphery work contacts from three jobs ago. Are they people that might have attended the same school as me but at that never acknowledged my existence?

What is my connection to these people. If the only time I even communicate with them is when I add to their once a year Birthday greeting totals, am I doing this because I care about them or because I want to feel loved when they hopefully reciprocate when my Birthday rolls around.  What is my motivation? Is it simply part of that gut reflex of being raised to be nice that was hammered into my head by my Mom and ever since had caused me to feel guilty if I am not friendly, don’t wave to my neighbors or go out of my way to stop to assist someone in need?

 

I don’t have the answers. I do know I skipped the last couple of school reunions. And I do try to wish everyone a Merry Birthday. Well at least I only know a handful of folks born in August.

reunion

REUNION DAN

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LIPSCHITZ & JOHNSON

I was talking to a client on the phone the other day. Before getting to real business we exchanged the usual mundane innocuous pleasantries about our ‘nice’ weekends, both of us feeling well and of course that old trite stand-by the weather. I even went over the top and slipped in that standard line ‘you know what they say about the weather here, if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change!’ It was in my head since the night before my wife was making fun of the fact people say that everywhere. She was right.  No matter where they live, most folks seem to truly believe their town’s experience with the weather is unique from everywhere else.

Wait… sorry… I didn’t mean to give something away.  Are you one of those people that believes where you live is truly unique?  If so, maybe you also believe you’re work place has the craziest people. Or that the drivers are the worst where you are.  If I may, everywhere has weather that can change rapidly, every workplace contains crazy dysfunctional people and no matter where you go there are folks that drive like Helen Keller with narcolepsy trying to answer a text. Sure, slight colloquial differences and variations exist but basically people are the same all over. Oh yeah and Planet Of The Apes is Earth, Soylent Green is people, Tyler is the narrator in Fight Club, Darth Vader is Luke’s Dad and Wizard Of Oz is a dream.  I’m just giving everything away today.

There was another thing I wanted to mention on that business phone call but since our relationship had not really moved past the superficial banter phase I thought it best not to ask him if people had often made fun of his name.  Although not as bad as some elementary school role call sheet fake names like Jim Nasium, Lynn Nolium, Dick Hertz or Miter Ben Sturdy, the person’s name did include not one but two slang words for male genitalia. How do parents do that to their children? Please folks, before naming your kids, check it in Urban Dictionary.

Whenever I come upon funny names I always recall the stationary store on Jamaica Ave, near where I grew up, owned by the Lipschitz family. I am sure we were not the only brats that prank called those poor folks. They always answered the phone ‘Lipschitz Stationary’ to which we would reply with some Einstein line like ‘if your Lipschitz, my ass talks’. I didn’t say we were geniuses.

My business call got to the blah, blah, blah… words, words, words… part and my head did a ‘one thing leads to another’ drift. Right in front of that Lipschitz Stationary store was the first time I really saw someone get violently beat up. I have no clue about the back-story, but between the famous 1970s New York street gangs and the rather well-known mob presence in that neighborhood, young Dan knew to mind his own business as I witnessed two large grown men whipping the daylights out of a guy with heavy steel chains until eventually crashing him through the store’s glass and steel gated side entrance.

It was quick and there was no crowd watching. As a matter of fact, the busy sidewalk seemed to suddenly become ghostly vacant.  I was still a little shaken from recently having my bicycle stolen from me at knife point and there was no chance I was getting involved. Right or wrong, I disappeared too.

All these years later that angry act of violence is still with me in my head. My bad memory has managed to preserve that nugget perfectly. Back then there were no video games to desensitize you. No YouTube fight videos to make this seem common place. No cable TV or access to adult content movies. A description in the paper, a fuzzy brief shot of war on the evening news or even the occasional sloppy slug-fests in a schoolyard were not the same. This was different.

Nothing came of it. There was no write up in the next day’s paper. No buzz on the streets. The next time I was in that area, the glass had been fixed and looked like it never happened. Yet I was somehow different. New York was rough back then and stuff like that has fed into my daily paranoia and fears shaping my views on violence. It makes me look over my shoulder on a quiet street. I remember when my brother Arthur got mugged during the same era. I learned to separate your cash and wallet into different pockets, not to look obvious or wear something to make a target out of yourself.

I guess you never know what will shape or warp your view your universe. I mostly avoided physical fights growing up but was that due to experiences like this or that I was simply a big gawky wus.

I was not raised with violence in my home, so it just never seemed like the smart option. Dad yelled and screamed from time to time making it feel like it’s almost imprinted on my DNA that things can escalate up to that point but not passed it. Those gut reflex reactions of what is acceptable or not stick around your entire life and you only learn how far you will go when you suddenly find yourself dropped into one of those situations. Obviously, my line of what is acceptable behavior falls somewhere between making fun of the guy whose name consists of two slang words for a penis versus slugging him for it.

JAMACA AVE

JAMAICA AVE , QUEENS NEW YORK

 

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